UNITED NATIONS: Chinese President Xi Jinping promised support Monday for a permanent UN police squad and African peacekeeping as he vowed a peaceful rise for the Asian power.
Paying his first-ever visit to the United Nations, Xi took a new step to address criticism that China has not taken responsiblity commensurate with its growing size.
Xi said that China, which has increasingly joined multinational defense efforts, would “take the lead” in setting up an 8,000-troop “permanent peacekeeping police squad” that could be deployed at short notice.
Xi also announced $100 million in funding to the African Union to support a similar rapid reaction force, as well as a broader 10-year, $1 billion UN-China “peace and development fund.”
China’s economy has soared in the past 15 years to become the largest after the United States, and the world’s most populous nation has sought to be treated as a major global power.
But China’s neighbors and the United States have voiced concern over Beijing’s territorial claims, while Western nations have charged that Beijing’s interest in poor nations is purely mercantile rather than focused on development.
Xi hit back in his speech, saying China was “committed to peaceful development.”
“No matter how the international landscape may evolve and how strong China may become, China will never pursue hegemony, expansion or a sphere of influence,” he said in an address to the United Nations.
Xi, however, said that the United Nations allowed all countries to “choose their own sovereignty and development paths.”
The comment was likely a veiled allusion to the frequent criticism of China’s human rights record, which includes the imprisonment of democracy activists such as Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo.
“All countries are equals. The big, strong and rich should not bully the small, weak and poor,” Xi said.
Speaking shortly before Xi, US President Barack Obama reiterated calls for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, the vital shipping corridor where Vietnam and the Philippines in particular have been concerned about Beijing’s assertive moves.
“We will defend these principles, while encouraging China and other claimants to resolve their differences peacefully,” Obama said.
Xi did not respond directly but, like Russian President Vladimir Putin who spoke after him, he denounced the “Cold War mentality” and the use of force by major powers.
“The law of the jungle leaves the weak at the mercy of the strong. It is not a way for countries to conduct their relations,” Xi said.
“Those who adopt the high-handed approach of using force will find that they are only lifting a rock to drop on their own feet,” he said.
But Xi has largely south a conciliatory on his trip to the United States, which comes amid growing jitters about the growth trajectory of China’s economy.
Xi on Saturday promised $2 billion in development assistance for poor nations as part of a UN-led effort to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.
A day earlier on a state visit to Washington, Xi promised a more aggressive effort to combat climate change including a system to cap emissions.
China is the most enthusiastic contributor to UN peacekeeping among the permanent members of the Security Council as the other four — Britain, France, Russia and the United States — have long traditions of overseas military campaigns.
China first joined UN peacekeeping in 1992 in Cambodia and as of last month has more than 3,000 troops, experts or police deployed.